Newcastle rename ground Sports Direct Arena

by Martin Lindsay

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Newcastle United have renamed St James’ Park the Sports Direct Arena with immediate effect.

What started as a typical Twitter rumour early on Wednesday evening has now been confirmed, with the news originally embargoed until midnight on Thursday morning.

The club state the aim in the long-term is to acquire an external investor to purchase the naming rights to, the now known, Sports Direct Arena for the club’s financial gain. It’s a decision that will undoubtedly anger the Newcastle fans, but one that Managing director Derek Llambias and owner Mike Ashley believe is a must if the club are to progress on financial footing.

Selling the naming rights to a stadium for commercial gain isn’t unusual in football and in many circumstances can be understood. However losing the St James’ Park title to be immediately replaced by Ashley’s firm Sports Direct is a controversial step, with no financial reward for the club.

Llambias’ answer: “Naming the stadium the Sports Direct Arena helps us to showcase the opportunity to interested parties.”

Unfortunately forNewcastlefans they will never know the truth behind this first episode of renaming, but it’s certain they will view this as a business ploy for Ashley, rather than what Llambias is expressing above.

Many will wonder why couldn’t the name have stayed as it was until a sponsor was found? Unfortunately only two men have that answer, neither of whom seem to consider, or confer with, their fans when making big decisions.

Two years ago the club re-branded St James’ Park to be known as’Park in an attempt to lure outside investment. That attempt failed with potential suitors only interested in full naming rights; hence tonight’s news.

Ashley and Llambias’ timing for this announcement isn’t accidental. They will have been very aware Newcastle’s next home match isn’t until the 3rd December, leaving time for the news to blow over before the impending backlash.

The Magpies are currently 3rd in the Premier League after enjoying an unbeaten start to the season. They face a difficult month ahead though with consecutive away trips to bothManchester clubs before returning to their newly named home for a meeting withChelsea in early December.

Renaming stadia for commercial benefit is present throughout sport worldwide, but few moves, if any, have tampered with tradition and heritage like tonight’s announcement.

Officially the ground Sir Bobby Robson used to call the “cathedral on the hill” is now the Sports Direct Arena, but to the local man on the street it will always be St James’ Park.

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  • jake

    cringe! shameless promotion. although saying that, Arsenal can hardly talk

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